Heath trust's surprise £7m windfall

A cash-strapped health trust is not so cash-strapped after all having being given a surprise windfall. The £7m has been given to Waveney and Yarmouth primary care trust (PCT) to help it balance its books.

A cash-strapped health trust is not so cash-strapped after all having being given a surprise windfall.

The £7m has been given to Waveney and Yarmouth primary care trust (PCT) to help it balance its books. But there is no such windfall for Norfolk - because it is in so much debt that it would still be in the red anyway.

Both trusts, which run doctors' surgeries, dentists, cottage hospitals and services like physiotherapy, have been struggling to cut costs since the new trusts were formed on October 1.

Waveney and Yarmouth PCT was expecting to overspend by just under £7m. Because it has already had to contribute a “loan” of £7m to the rest of the region in 2006-7, the strategic health authority (SHA), which oversees health services in the region, has decided it can have the money back. Meanwhile, Norfolk put £7.2m into the regional kitty, but is expected to have overspent by a massive £49m in the last financial year, so does not get its money back.

Waveney and Yarmouth PCT has been putting stringent measures in place to cut costs, including a recruitment freeze and prescribing cheaper drugs. The Patrick Stead Hospital in Halesworth was also closed for three months, partly to save money and partly because of staff shortages.

Ironically, the trust will have to give £9.9m of its £330m budget back to the SHA this year.

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Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, who represents Halesworth, said: “It is a scandal. It is such a scandal because it is meant to mislead people. Waveney and Yarmouth PCT was promised extra money to meet the deprivation levels in the area, and it hasn't had that money. The idea they have overspent is utterly untrue.”

A spokesman for the East of England SHA said: “There is no point in giving the money back to Norfolk because they won't balance their books anyway. No-one is being penalised, it is still their money, but they won't get it back this financial year.”

David Matthews, director of finance and performance at Waveney and Yarmouth PCT, said: “It is nice to be able to balance our books.”

A spokesman for Norfolk PCT would only say: “Norfolk PCT also contributed £7.2m to the SHA in 2006-7 which will be returned to the PCT in future years.”